By Hocine LOUKKAF on 11/24/2019
Basic stats and hype can distort reality to a point where it becomes difficult to rank, as objectively as possible, players. For this first rookie report of the year. I decided to start with a traditional ranking taking into account efficiency and draft range and in a second part, I will focus on those hyped top 10 draft picks who, despite putting up stats, have a ways to go to become impact players.
#1 Ja Morant, PG Memphis Grizzlies (18.5pts 6as 41% 3pt)
With Zion still out, Morant has been the rough diamond of this draft. The uber-athletic PG is still struggling with his turnovers (3.8 per game) but has shot a nice 12/29 from three, better than expected. He must become more consistent with his averall scoring efficiency but has the tools to be a star PG.
#2 Brandon Clarke, PF Memphis Grizzlies (12.7pts 6.1rbds 1.2bl in 22min)
Clarke may be the most efficient player in the league. He defends hard, scores with high % fg while being pretty consistent (60+% fg in six of the last nine games). He has also improved his outside shooting with 7/13 for November from three. A major steal at 21 for the Grizzlies.
#3 Kendrick Nunn, SG/PG Miami Heat (17.3pts 3.4as 39% 3pt)
Undrafted in 2018 after a dramatic college career (expelled from Illinois due to behaviour issues before transferring to Oakland), Nunn has improved his game last season with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors. Miami has been intelligent enough to sign him for the summer leagues as he started the season with 112pts in the first five games, an NBA record for an undrafted player. A good shooter and athlete who can play both guard spots, Nunn fits perfectly to the Heat agressive style of play.
#4 Tyler Herro SG, Miami Heat (14pts 4.3rbds 40% 3pt)
The most expected rookie for the Heat, Herro has been able to play a lot despite the good perfs from Nunn and Butler. With 14pts per game on 40% 3pt, the former Kentucky freshman is displaying incredible poise for such a young player. He had at least 15pts and 50% fg in four of his last games, albeit against poor competition, a good enough feat to have him in the top five.
#5 Terence Davis, SG/PG Toronto Raptors (6pts 48% 3pt 2.8rbds 2as in 14min)
Another undrafted prospect, Davis has fallen into the good team as Toronto has developed several undrafted rookies into solid NBA players over the years (including VanVleet and Boucher). Davis has also benefited from Lowry’s injury, playing at least 16min in each if the last seven games. Over the last four games, except a poor 2pts 4as against the Mavs, the former Rebel has averaged 16.3pts 4.3as while hitting 10/16 from three (48% on 2.5att for the season).
#6 Cameron Johnson, SF Phoenix Suns (9.5pts in 18min 43% 3pt)
I have to confess I was very surprised to see an old senior like Johnson crack into the lottery during the last draft. It may still be a bit early to see what kind of player Johnson will become compared to the other rookies drafter lower but at least, he will probably not be a bust. Playing 18min a game for a totally rebuilt Suns team, the former Tar Heel is averaging 9.5pts on 42% from three and almost five attempts per game. Yet, he’s quite unidimensional with only 2.9rbds 0.8as and 0.5st, very low numbers for an old rookie selected in the lottery.
#7 Goga Bitadze, C Indiana Pacers (6.3pts 4.3rbds 1.8bl in 17min)
One of my favourite prospects of the last draft, Bitadze had been out from the first round for most experts until he chose to play Euroleague for Buducnost. On draft night, he had to wait the 18th pick to hear his name and may still be a steal. Playing for a short-manned albeit solid Pacers team, Bitadze is doing the best of the 17min he’s given with 6.3pts on a decent 50% fg and 73% ft but above all 1.8bl, potentially good for top 10 in the NBA (he’s not ranked now because he played less than 70% of the games, 9 out of 14). His developing outside shot could be another weapon he could use to be a better offensive player in the future.
#8 Jaxson Hayes, C New Orleans Pelicans (7.8pts 4.1rbds 1.1bl in 17min)
A polarizing prospect before the draft because of his rawness, Hayes is already displaying why he deserved to be selected in the top 10. After a strong start with 19pts against the Warriors, Hayes continued slowly but improved and has been far better over the last five games as he’s averaged 9.4pts 5.4rbds and 1.8bl, a stretch during which the Pels won four of their five games. Hayes has the tools to be a nice starting center and a lot of room to improve in New Orleans.
#9 PJ Washington, PF Charlotte Hornets (12pts 5.3rbds 48% 3pt)
Projected as a late first rounder, Washington had been surprisingly drafted in the lottery by Charlotte. While not the best rim protector you will find with only 5.4rbds and 0.8bl in 28min, Washington has displayed very nice efficiency from three with 49% 3pt on almost three attempts per game. Probably not an homerun but a solid player down the road.
#10 Eric Paschall, PF Golden State Warriors (17.1pts 4.9rbds)
Because of his scoring, Paschall has been very hyped the last weeks. Of course, he performs pretty well for someone drafted at 41. Yet, he’s playing for the worst team in the NBA (3-14) and has to develop many aspects of his game despite being already 23. A stretch PF, his 50% fg are hindered by his horrible 23% from three on almost three attempts. Moreover, his defense is pretty average with a poor 5.1rbds and 0.6bl in a team which plays at a very high pace. We’ll know later in his career if he can be efficient in a team which competes for wins.
Honorable mention :
Nicolo Melli, PF New Orleans (7.1pts 3.2rbds 38% 3pt)
A Euroleague standout for years, the Italian PF has finally crossed the Atlantic to test himself at the NBA level. Not the most athletic player, Mellis will bring his toughness and outside shooting from the bench for a talented Pels team. Nothing more is expected from him but he fits his role perfectly. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 12pts 5.2rbds 3.2as for three wins, including one away from NO against the Suns.
Nassir Little, SF Portland Blazers (6.1pts 4.1rbds)
A former top 5 prospect in his class, Little has slipped to the 25th spot due to an inconsistent freshman year at UNC. Playing for an underwhelming Blazers team, Little has been able to find some playing time lately and made the best of it, averaging 11.7pts and 6.3rbds in 23min over the last three games. If he can score consistently from outside and be an active rebounder and defender, he will at least become a solid starter in the NBA.